Villas/townhouses/detached houses: There are western-style suburban housing complexes with attached or free-standing homes out in the northeast “villa area” near Capital Airport. For those who really want the comforts of home, they provide backyards, clubhouses, and sidewalks to walk the dog. Many international schools are also located nearby, making the school commute an easy one. English-speaking staff and other compound amenities make this an option for well-to-do expats. However, the villa area is far from downtown and will entail a long commute for those who work “in the city”.
Luxury apartment complexes: Many of the city’s new luxury apartment buildings are located in the east side of town in Chaoyang District and were built within the last 5-7 years. These residences include western amenities from ovens to washers and dryers. These apartments often provide a mix of comfort and convenience, allowing residents to enjoy the city’s amenities while also having the advantage of modern gyms, playgrounds, satellite TV, and the like within the compound. Since these apartments are located within the city and also cater to well-to-do Chinese locals, there is a better chance of avoiding the “expat bubble” that villa life often creates. International school buses often make scheduled stops at all the big luxury apartment complexes in the city.
Renovated courtyard homes: For those inclined to the romantic, you can try your hand at finding a renovated courtyard or “siheyuan” to rent. Few and far between, these courtyard homes are made up of four buildings arranged around a central courtyard. You will most likely find these in surviving hutongs (traditional alleyway neighborhoods) in the middle of the city. Courtyard homes can be very pricey and hard to uncover since good ones are rarely vacant. You might also find cheaper courtyard housing that does not include a fully renovated property—but this means you may end up sacrificing comfort (like self-regulated heat and A/C perhaps). Renovated courtyard homes are often found amidst old properties so your neighbors in this case will likely be local Chinese living in the surrounding hutong homes, with communal bathrooms located outside their homes.
Mid-upper tier local apartments: Many young expats and well-heeled students will find living in mid-upper tier local apartments perfectly comfortable. These options are abundant and much cheaper than luxury apartment complexes. These apartment buildings are older and likely do not have many western conveniences installed in the apartments. There may not be an oven, no serviced front desk in the lobby of the buildings, or any English-speaking management to turn to for help. It requires tenants to have some degree of Chinese language skills to live successfully in these buildings.